First reading Ezekiel 34:1-11

An oracle against bad and selfish shepherds

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows: ‘Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them:
  ‘“Shepherds, the Lord says this: Trouble for the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Shepherds ought to feed their flock, yet you have fed on milk, you have dressed yourselves in wool, you have sacrificed the fattest sheep, but failed to feed the flock. You have failed to make weak sheep strong, or to care for the sick ones, or bandage the wounded ones. You have failed to bring back strays or look for the lost. On the contrary, you have ruled them cruelly and violently. For lack of a shepherd they have scattered, to become the prey of any wild animal; they have scattered far. My flock is straying this way and that, on mountains and on high hills; my flock has been scattered all over the country; no one bothers about them and no one looks for them.
  ‘“Well then, shepherds, hear the word of the Lord. As I live, I swear it – it is the Lord who speaks – since my flock has been looted and for lack of a shepherd is now the prey of any wild animal, since my shepherds have stopped bothering about my flock, since my shepherds feed themselves rather than my flock, in view of all this, shepherds, hear the word of the Lord. The Lord says this: I am going to call the shepherds to account. I am going to take my flock back from them and I shall not allow them to feed my flock. In this way the shepherds will stop feeding themselves. I shall rescue my sheep from their mouths; they will not prey on them any more.”
  ‘For the Lord says this: “I am going to look after my flock myself and keep all of it in view.”’
 
 

Responsorial Psalm 22(23)

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.
 
The Lord is my shepherd;
  there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
  where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
  to revive my drooping spirit.
 
He guides me along the right path;
  he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
  no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
  with these you give me comfort.
 
You have prepared a banquet for me
  in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
  my cup is overflowing.
 
Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
  all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
  for ever and ever.
 
 

Gospel Matthew 20:1-16

Why be envious because I am generous?

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day, and sent them to his vineyard. Going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them, “You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage.” So they went. At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went out and did the same. Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more men standing round, and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” “Because no one has hired us” they answered. He said to them, “You go into my vineyard too.” In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his bailiff, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first.” So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. They took it, but grumbled at the landowner. “The men who came last” they said “have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” He answered one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?” Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.’
 
 
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God is generous

In today’s gospel, the landowner might seem unfair to the workers, especially to those who started work at his vineyard at the start of the day. In our minds, the workers who worked for more hours should be paid more while the rest who worked less should be paid less. This parable somehow challenges our understanding of justice. “Now the kingdom of Heaven is like…”. Jesus presents to us a God whose way of thinking differs from ours.
 
God is like this landowner whose generosity extends to every person. He is not calculative, and His giving of Himself does not depend on how much or little we give ourselves to Him. He gives one denarius of His love and mercy to those who are worthy and those who are not. Today, we are called to rejoice and thank God for His love that is so generous and rich in mercy.
 
Reflection question:
Have I ever experienced God’s generous love and mercy in my life?
 
 
Acknowledgment: Reflections are based on “Prayer for Living: The Word of God for Daily Prayer Year C” by Sr Sandra Seow FMVD.